NEW GLOUCESTER – A proposed ordinance dealing with the transfer of landowner development rights drew about 16 people at a recent public hearing.

The land-use tool has been under study by the town’s zoning committee for three years.

The ordinance aims to preserve land within special sending zones with more than 10 acres by selling development rights to a landowner in a receiving zone, who must also have a minimum of 10 acres.

In all areas of New Gloucester, anyone engaged in active agriculture or animal husbandry within the past five years can apply for a transfer of development rights with the town’s code enforcement officer.

Two Maine communities have tried similar ordinances. In Brunswick, the ordinance was later repealed, while in Cape Elizabeth the tool has never been exercised.

Roughly 5,400 acres in New Gloucester have been earmarked to receive development rights, and nearly 14,000 acres in two separate locations are earmarked to be preserved as sending zones. Roughly 5,000 acres are not included in the proposal.

However, Town Planner James Isaacson said 7,000 development rights are in the sending zone, and only 3,000 development rights can be received in the growth area.

The plan concentrates development in the receiving or growth area, mostly in Upper Gloucester and along a section of the Route 100 corridor.

“There are more development rights out there than what will fit in our growth area,” said Isaacson.

He said large parcels in Maine’s Tree Growth program can continue with the conservation tool that runs with the land in perpetuity.

Resident Cotheal Linnell was told that roughly $3,500 was spent to print brochures and send letters to large landowners, paid with tax-increment financing revenues from Pineland. The TIF funds allow selectmen to approve spending funds to study growth effects as a result of Pineland’s development.

Resident Ann Thaxter was told some tax savings, though not significant, could be expected from landowners selling development rights.

Thaxter said most transfer development rights areas have public water and sewer to support congestive growth. New Gloucester relies on private wells and private septic systems townwide.

Resident Owen Haskell said a large sand and gravel aquifer protection area lies within the growth area. A recent water study concluded that growth area lots should be at least 1 acre.

Planning Board Chairman Jean Libby said, “We’re trying to do something in New Gloucester to keep our open space and preserve our rural character.”

A special town meeting will be called this fall to vote on the ordinance, Isaacson said.

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